There are plenty of things to do in Darmouth in Devon. Whether you visit for a day trip or are staying for a few days, it really is a wonderful town to explore inside and out.
There are plenty of hikes, historic buildings and Oceanside activities. There’s something for everyone. So here’s some inspiration and handy travel tips for your upcoming visit to Dartmouth.
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How to Get to Dartmouth
Option 1 is to take the bus 92 from Bus stop C (next to the public toilets) in Totnes. The ride will take around 40 minutes and will drop you off right in front of the Park Avenue Gardens and Harbour.
Good to know: There are public toilets near the main bus stops in Totnes and Dartmouth.
Another option is to take the steam train from Paignton or bus 18 from Brixham to Kingswear. Then hop on the ferry to Dartmouth. A one way ride costs 1.50 GBP and takes around 5 minutes. There is no regular schedule as the ferry is in constant use throughout the day.
Please check the timetable in advance as buses stop going in the afternoon. If you have to catch a connecting bus, be aware that you might miss it if you travel on super busy days or during rush hour.
What to See in Dartmouth
One of the most prominent places to see in Dartmouth is Dartmouth Castle. It actually is more a fort than a castle and was used as an outlook and a defense post. It dates back to the late 14th century and was extended a century later.
Nowadays, it is a museum and its prominent St Lawrence Tower has been repurposed as a café. A few of the outer walls are still standing.
There is a local ferry that’s operating from Dartmouth Harbour between April and October. (There are no buses.) One way costs 2.50 GBP and there is no schedule. It sets out whn there’s someone wanting to hop on.
When you visit the castle on your Dartmouth holidays, do yourself a favour and make your way up to Gallants Bower. There are a few trails behind the castle up onto the hill. You can’t really miss it. Note that there are no ruins left of the former Dartmouth fort.
Especially during late spring, mounds of the former Civil War Fort are completely covered in vibrant bluebell fields. Matched with the stunning views over Dart River and the harbour in the distance, this place will leave you in awe.
Sick of walking? Try a cruise. There are various cruises to and around the harbour. You can take the boat up all the way to Totnes. Or you can float down to the lighthouse and check out the coastline. If you want to go all out, take the Dartmouth cruise up to Brixham and Paignton.
Bayard’s Cove Fort
Don’t have enough of forts around Dartmouth yet? Then check out the Tudor fort in Bayards Cove. It was built in the early 16th century as a means to further strengthen the military power along the coast.
It was equipped with heavy guns to kill off any ships that could have possibly managed to get by the forts of Dartmouth and Kingswear.
There is no public transport going here. You either have to walk or drive here. There is a small car park and public toilets on site.
Dartmouth Steam Railway
There are multiple ways to get around in the area and an iconic one is by steam train. Dartmouth itself doesn’t have a train station but is connected to the train and boat tours packages offered by the Dartmouth Steam Railway Company.
You can get the Round Robin ticket to make use of all three types of public transport around the River Dart and Dartmouth.
The museum lies right behind the harbour and gardens in a crooked historical building. It’s quite the sight! The house belonged to a medieval merchant and was built around the year 1640.
Inside, you can see a collection about local town and maritime history, including photographs and artefacts. The entry ticket is only 2GBP for adults. It’s not wheelchair accessible but has created a virtual tour on DVD.
The harbour might be Dartmouth’s most iconic sight. Cute and colourful half timbered houses line the promenade where ferries and local cruises depart. From here you have a glorious view over the neighbouring town of Kingswear. If you look closely, you can see the castle in the distance.
St Petrox Church
Next and part of Dartmouth Castle is the little church of St Petrox. It is the oldest of Dartmouth’s parish churches and consists of three aisles and dates back to 12th century, when it was still known as the Church of St Peter.
However, the current ‘look’ of the building came about in 1641. By the way, the name St Petrox actually is said to refer to the St Petroc, who was a Welsh prince-turned-devout-priest.
St Saviour’s Church
One of the three Parish churches in Dartmouth, St Saviour’s Church is hard to miss. It’s right in the centre of the town as the parishioners were sick of climbing hill to get to church. So they picked this new location.
The church was rated as one of the top 100 churches in all of England. And if you’re at all familiar with the Canterbury Tales, you might want to have a peek at the memorial brass to John Hawley who is believed to have inspired the “Shipman”.
Royal Avenue Gardens
The green heart of the city and centrally located, Royal Avenue Gardens are ideal for seeking shade on a warm summer’s day.
You can catch local street musicians perform or have a little picnic on the park benches. At the back, you can find the Tourist Information Centre and the public toilets are nearby as well.
Fun fact: The park was actually built on a sandbank that was reclaimed in the 19th century. Queen Victoria herself visited in 1856, which inspired the name.
Britannia Royal Naval College Tours
From the Bowery or Kingswear, you can clearly see the imposing Britannia Royal Naval College in the distance. You can only visit it when going on a public or private guided tour. This way, you get to see the chapel, Quarterdeck, Parade Ground, Senior Gun Room and Britannia Heritage Museum.
To this day this naval academy is still used by the British Royal Navy. Official trainings commenced in 1863 and the building as it stands now was completed in 1905.
There are quite a few places for shopping in Dartmouth. For starters, check out the Old Market Square and its specialist shops. Combine your seaside promenading with stepping into high street shops along the Quay and Higher Street.
Of course, Dartmouth also has its own markets, such as the Dartmouth Artisan Market. This one takes place on the 4th Saturday of each month. You can support local artists and admire their handcrafted items.
Crabbing is super popular among kids and a classic seaside activity around here. It’s basically fishing for crabs from the piers. Note that you aren’t allowed to crab on the river pontoons as boats are departing from there.
To get into crabbing, you need a big bucket, a crab line, net, bait and patience. (Here are some tips on crabbing.) Fun fact: There is even a festival, known as The Salcombe Crab Festival, or Crabfest for short.
There are plenty of seaside activities you can do in Dartmouth, Devon. One of the super popular ones is paddleboarding. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I saw a group of paddleboarders as if on cue.
For a longer walk, try the Jubilee Walk. It will lead you around the southern coastline of Dartmouth past its two castles and secluded beaches.
Just a short walk from Sugary Cove, Ladies Cove next to Deadmans Cove is aprt of the route. It’s a rugged beach with plenty of rocks, so not the perfect spot for sunbathing or swimming, but all the more picturesque.
With warm days ahead and plenty of sunshine, you really need to seek out the beautiful coastline. Apart from the hikes, you can also take some down time. There are a few sandy beaches, at Castle Cove or Sugary Cove.
Day trips around South Devon
Of course, one place might not be able to contain you for the entire time. And why should it? South Devon is absolutely beautiful. The easiest day trip from Dartmouth might be Totnes. There are many things to do and see there.
You can head up to the moors, climbing the many tors in Dartmoor National Park and maybe enjoying a cookery class in Ashburton. Or, you could check out nearby Brixham and its picture-perfect harbourfront. Then, there is Plymouth and the beautiful Wembury Woods not too far away.
Dartmouth may be small but its event calendar is packed. In spring, there is the Dart Music Festival and the Dartmouth Shakespeare Week.
For August, you can mark the Dartmouth Royal Regatta in your calendars and the Dartmouth Food Festival follows soon after. Even in winter, there is a festival, namely Candlelit Dartmouth with lantern workshops and Christmas markets in town.
Spot a Mermaid
If you have a keen eye (actually, it’s not that hard to spot), you may spot a little mermaid on the rocks near Dartmouth Castle.
That’s Miranda and she was created in the image of the lady who owned the house where she’s sitting. She wanted to be remembered. That’s a pretty cool way to do it, if you ask me.
Dartmouth being a seaside town, take full advantage of that. One of the best restaurants in Dartmouth for seafood are the elegant Seahorse Restaurant and the bistro chain Rockfish. The latter even has its own merch and is family-friendly.
If curry and Indian cuisine is more what you’re after, take a seat at Spice Bazaar. To fill up on good coffee and live music, try the Café Alf Resco. It’s a quirky place with friendly staff.
Things to Do Near Dartmouth in Devon
Would you like to stay at a castle? You can do that at the Castle of Kingswear. But it won’t be cheap.
From here, you have marvelous views over the estuary of the River Dart as well as Dartmouth Castle. It was built on the rocky shores of the coast in 1481 to support Dartmouth Castle.
Back then, this approach was super advanced as it held massive guns as well. It outlived its original purpose pretty quickly and basically abandoned until it became a fancy summer residence.
Beach and nature lovers will want to put Slapton Sands in South Devon on their maps. It’s super pretty and features rare flora and fauna. For instance, you may be lucky enough to spot the Western Cattle Egret. Walk on the sandy beach or into the marshland.
Despite its beauty, the past of Slapton Sands wasn’t pretty at all. In 1944 it was used for practicing D-Day landings. Over 1200 soldiers died due to an accidental shell firing and a surprise attack by German E-boats.
If you want to escape the holiday makers in the popular coves close to Dartmouth, pick Blackpool Sands. This beach is located in a sheltered and natural bay among evergreen trees.
It is a great beach for swimming, sea kayaking or paddleboaridng and has the blue flag. Dogs aren’t allowed. There are a small café and shop nearby in case you need to stock up on refreshments.
Across Mayor’s Park Avenue you can catch the ferry for 30 minutes to Dittisham for a short day trip. What you will see here is a picturesque village by the river. It’s rather small, which means there isn’t a lot to do here.
Still, for stunning photos and a relaxed afternoon, the village ticks all the right boxes. You can dine or grab a drink at the two local pubs or sit in the waterside café. If you’re done exploring, you can ring the bell at the pontoon and get a ferry to the other side, to Greenway House & Gardens.
If you enjoy reading Agatha Christie, this magnificent mansion should totally be on your list. This is where the famous authoress used to vacation with her family.
Today, Greenway House is a museum filled with the family collections and well preserved in its 1950s state. Plus, 2019 is celebrates the 10 years of public access with a string of festivals and events throughout the year.
Woodlands Family Theme Park
Even if you don’t have kids with you, you don’t need an excuse to visit Woodlands. There are water and vertigo rides and it’s Devon’s largest family theme park. You can buy tickets online to avoid the queues.
You don’t need a car to get here as the X64 bus stops here on its way to Totnes. You can stay overnight at the Woodlands Grove Caravan & Camping Park.
Fast Rabbit Farms Garden
Despite what the name suggests, the Fast Rabbit Farms Garden near Dartmouth is less about fast rabbits and more about beautiful gardening. Each season features different highlights. In winter, you can visit the Step Garden.
For spring, you gotta see the Magnolia and Camellia walks as well as the cherry trees, bluebells, daffodils, primroses and celandines. Picnics are allowed and entrance to the Plant Centre is free.
Coleton Fishacre House & Garden
Add a little Gatsy vibe to your day by visiting Coleton Fishacre House and its Garden. The solid, grey stone house is from the roaring 20s and was built particularly for the purpose of partying.
Schedule in time to take a walk through the gardens and valley as well. You can spot plants from various countries, including South Africa and New Zealand. Note that currently, service rooms are closed due to repair work on the roof. Check for updates here.
Start Point Lighthouse
Yes, there are many lighthouses along the southern British coast. But this one is special in that it stands on one of the most protruding peninsulas of the country and a mile into the sea. It was built over 150 years ago, in 1836.
It is an English Heritage listed building and you can usually have a look inside during the summer. Note that it is currently closed for modernisations. See current visiting details here.
Berry Head Nature Reserve
Stretching out on a peninsula near Brixham and overlooking Tor Bay, Berry Head National Nature Reserve is a must for local hikers. There is an Information Centre and café and entry is free.
Besides its local wildlife, you can admire the lighthouse and a Napoleonic Fort, which were recently restored. Alternatively, you can do rock climbing and kayaking. If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale.
Dartmouth Travel Tips
How to Get There
Take the bus or train to Totnes. From there, you can take the bus or river cruise down to Dartmouth. In case you want to hit up multiple towns, such as Totnes, Brixham or Paignton, get the Devon Explorer bus ticket. That’s usually cheaper than a regular return ticket anyway.
Alternatively, you can take the bus from Bixham to Kingswear and then take the ferry across to Dartmouth. From Paignton, there is a steam train service down to Kingswear.
If you want to make the most of your trip, why not jump on the Round Robin? This allows you to do the entire trip: with train, cruise and bus. They even provide you with an itinerary suggestion so you don’t need to worry too much about planning.
What to Bring With You
Even on cloudy days, don’t underestimate the power of the sun to give you a sunburn. Yes, even in England. Why not have one thing less to worry about and just use a BB cream with UV protection? You can also carry a small sun spray with you to touch up in case your day trip gets long.
Feel like Grace Kelly and pack a small shawl or scarf. This way, you look trendy can protect your neck from drafts on the cruise AND your hair can stay intact. No need to pull a Bridget Jones on your day out. If all else fails, you can use the shawl as a pillow during your bus ride.
You’ll probably bring a camera to document your day trip to Dartmouth, right? Since you’ll be by the ocean, why not invest in a UV protection lens.
This way, your lens is protected from the sun on top of being more easy to clean after meeting salt water spray from the breeze and ocean waves. (Bring a cleaning kit, too.) If it’s sunny out, opt for a polarizing filter to really crank up the sky’s blues.
Where to Stay in Dartmouth
Should you decide to stay for a while, there is a range of Dartmouth accommodation to choose from. To give you an idea of where to stay depending on your budget, here are my four picks for Dartmouth hotels and apartments.
$$$: Dart Marina Hotel
Expect luxury at this high class hotel in Dartmouth. You get to enjoy stunning river views from your spacious hotel room and have access to the hotel’s own wellness area and pool. There is a restaurant onsite as well.
How about residing in a 16th century farmhouse? You can do that at Townstal and delight in a romantic setting and décor while you’re at it. At this beautiful property you are a little bit out of town but back in just 3 minute by car. There is a bus stop right outside, too.
Locally situated in a 17th century house, you get to see the Dartmouth Harbour from your room. Hotel rooms have their own bathroom and are bright and large. You can dine in the laid back hotel restaurant or sip on your ale at its two bars.
Should You Visit Dartmouth?
I hope you no longer wonder what to do in Dartmouth. There is quite a bit to do around here and it’s definitely well worth a trip. You can reach it via public transport, so there’s no need to skip it if you’re in South Devon anyway.
Even on a bad day, there are enough things to do in Devon in the rain, from visits to castles, museums and mansions, there are options.
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